Plan to hold field hearing on mineral bill draws fire from GOP
DENVER – A plan by majority Democrats to hold a legislative hearing in Glenwood Springs has drawn fire from Republicans, who would like to get permission to take their top issues on the road and hold hearings on their home turf.Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said she will hold a hearing Feb. 14 at the Garfield County Commission hearing room on a measure regulating mineral surface rights. The committee will vote on the bill when it returns to Denver.Curry, chairwoman of the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, said she moved the hearing to avoid the need for hundreds of people to drive to the Capitol for a hearing. She said House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, gave permission for the trip.”The role of our committee is to get input from citizens. This prevents a lot of people from having to drive seven hours to give one minute of testimony,” she said.The measure would require negotiations on compensation for surface owners for any damages caused by drilling operations. The so-called split estate – where companies own the rights to resources underneath property owned by homeowners and others – is a big issue in Colorado and other parts of the West.Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said the move sets a bad precedent. King said he would like to hold hearings on emergency contraception, charter schools and proposed revisions to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Colorado Springs, where conservatives outnumber liberals.”We hold hearings at the Capitol so people know where to go,” King said.House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, said Democrats are making a big mistake holding hearings hundreds of miles from the Capitol. He said people on the Front Range who have an interest in mineral rights will have to make the long drive if they want to attend.”When you have a hearing at the Capitol, it’s neutral. This will no longer be neutral when the hearing is held on her turf. It sounds innocuous, but this is very self-serving,” Stengel said.Stengel said he has attended hearings for seven years and never had a committee hold a hearing outside the Capitol. A spokeswoman for Romanoff said it has happened several times before, including a hearing on the budget several years ago at a Denver university.Curry said Republicans should be allowed to hold hearings on their bills in their districts if they get permission from committee chairs and leadership. King said that is unlikely now that Democrats control both the House and the Senate.”Somehow, I don’t think they are going to grant permission,” King said.Romanoff said he supports plans for hearings outside the Capitol, and would like to hold more hearings on nights and weekends so more people can attend.”If we spend too much time at the Capitol, we forget who we work for,” Romanoff said.John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University, said he sees nothing wrong with holding district hearings on legislation.”Congress does this all the time. It would be different if they were going to vote on it. This is a matter of getting public input,” Straayer said.
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